Currently viewing the tag: "Catoctin Cougars"

Blair Garrett

Basketball is a game of momentum.

After dominating the majority of the game and a last-minute comeback, Catoctin Boys Hoops steadied the ship to edge out Smithsburg, 67-63, on January 14. The team then kept pace with the region, taking out Clear Spring and Williamsport consecutively.

The Smithsburg win was hard-fought with a down-to-the-wire slugfest between two rivals.

The neck and neck contest saw both teams battling for control throughout much of the first half, with Catoctin holding a 26-23 lead over the Leopards. Head coach Brian Burdette lit a fire under his team to start the third quarter, and the Cougars never looked back.

“Coming off the game against Middletown, I knew we were going to come out a little flat to start,” Burdette said. “We regrouped and started to do the things we wanted to do offensively, and we were able to get clean looks at the basket to heat up and pull away a little bit.”

Rivalries always add a bit of spice to a game. With the home crowd roaring, the Cougars came out with winning energy and intensity in the second half.

Catoctin’s explosive third quarter was led by forward David Parker, whose rebounding prowess in the paint gave problems to Smithsburg throughout the game. Parker’s ability to extend plays let the team’s outside shooters flourish, pushing the Cougar lead to as much as 17. Catoctin held a 47-33 advantage in rebounds on the night.

Nailing three-pointers and scoring off the transition put the Cougars firmly into the driver’s seat. When Catoctin can find the open man and stretch out the defense, they are at their best. “When we move the ball, and we cut to get some open looks at the basket, we’re able to knock them down,” Burdette said.

A buzzer-beater to close out the third quarter saw Catoctin ahead 49-35, but the game was far from over. The contest evolved into a chess match, with both coaches wisely using timeouts to stifle the opposition’s momentum. Smithsburg is a team that has no quit, and momentum can change in the blink of an eye.

After holding a 17-point lead with six minutes left, a Smithsburg timeout gave the team life to rally back, putting the home team on its heels late in the game. With the clock winding down, the Leopards continued to pick up steam with defensive tenacity and quick-strike offense.

Smithsburg guard Morgan Hyman hit a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left, putting the Cougars dangerously close to losing their lead. Catoctin headed to the free-throw line with 4.6 on the clock and a two-point lead, and made no mistake, sinking both and putting the game out of reach.

The Cougars’ close call against Smithsburg came as no surprise to Burdette, who has taken notice of the Leopards’ ability to battle back late in games. “I watched the three other games this season, and they’ve come back,” he said. “They don’t give up, and they’re a scrappy ball club. I knew they were capable of doing that.”

With three wins in a row and another big win under their belt, the Cougars are quickly shaping up for the playoff season. While logging these early wins is ideal, the team attitude of always having something to improve on will carry them far.

“We’ve got to improve taking care of the ball in transition,” Burdette said.

When the team is firing on all cylinders, it is hard to beat. If the team continues to integrate its depth and facilitate the ball, there is no telling how far it can go.

Morgan Hyman (left) and Tommy Fitzpatrick (right) battle for possession.

Blair Garrett

Catoctin High School football has cruised through the first two rounds of the playoffs, crushing its opponents with a combined score of 100-12. The team followed up those performances with another offensive explosion, smashing its quarterfinal opponents by 20 points.

The Cougars clashed with the Southern Rams in the first round of the playoffs, scoring touchdowns on each possession throughout the entirety of the battle.

It was a frigid night, but Catoctin came out on fire, exploding for three quick touchdowns in the first frame, a theme that continued throughout the game.

“The kids practice hard,” Head Coach Doug Williams said. “When they do that, we execute.”

The team’s run game dominated Southern, chewing up huge chunks of yardage, left and right. Dynamic running back duo Carson Sickeri and Jacob Baker combined for multiple scores each on the night, pushing Catoctin to a comfortable 41-point lead by halftime.

The Cougar defense was nearly impenetrable, limiting the Rams to just a handful of first downs until the final drive of the game. Solid defense sets up the offense, and the Cougars were dominant on both sides of the ball from start to finish.

“The defense gave us field position,” Williams said. “I don’t know how many first downs they got, but it wasn’t many.”

Any football coach recognizes the importance of having a consistent offensive line. Throughout the season, Catoctin’s offensive line has often been the unsung group of heroes on the team. So far in the playoffs, their contributions have been noticeable, and they have continued to create lanes and suppress pressure, allowing the Cougar offense to flourish. 

“It all starts with the offensive line,” Williams said. “They were doing a good job blocking and executing, and the skill guys followed right behind them.”

Good teams expect more cohesion as their season pushes on, and Catoctin has been playing a complete game for weeks.

The Cougars replicated their almost flawless performance the following week, blowing out Boonsboro High School 47-6 in the second round of the playoffs, and routing Fairmont Heights 41-21 in the quarterfinals.

The team’s six-game winning streak has been built on consistent play on offense and defense, and the Cougars are finding ways to win convincingly each week because of it. That balance has given Coach Williams and company a lot to build upon each practice, and the results have been sensational on the field.

With momentum on their side, the team still has more work to do to reach the state championship once again, a feat it last did in 2010.

Sitting at an 11-1 record, the Cougars have the confidence and the ability to make the push into the final leg of the playoffs, and with the season on the line, each game from here on out, the team is leaving everything out on the field.

With a maximum of two games left in the season, Catoctin faces off against Fort Hill on Friday, November 29, in a semifinal showdown that is sure to be the Cougars’ toughest challenge of the season. You can catch more high school football action following the playoffs that you won’t want to miss.

Editor’s note: The Catoctin Banner, in cooperation with Dave Ammenheuser, wrote this story.     

It has been almost 40 years since John Campbell, Duane Gigeous, Dennis Grandstaff, Larry Martinez, and Mark Williard stood together on the Catoctin High School basketball court. 

They were members of the 1979-80 Catoctin boys’ basketball team that finished with a 14-8 record, which snapped a streak of several losing seasons. A year later, the 1980-81 Cougars posted a school-best 20-3 record and became the only Catoctin boys’ basketball team to advance to the state semifinals at the University of Maryland’s Cole Field House. The Cougars lost to Mount Hebron in overtime. 

In January 2020, those five, plus many of their 1979-80 and 1980-81 teammates, coaches, cheerleaders, and statisticians plan to reunite at the school for the first time in almost four decades.

“We grew up in a special place at a special time,” said Williard, who now lives in Irving, Texas. “The community really rallied around us, and I believe that support helped to drive our success. I attended Catoctin’s homecoming football game this year and am glad to see that the strong support remains. I’m really looking forward to getting the gang back together.”

Williard and Dave Ammenheuser, the statistician of the 1979-80 team, are coordinating the January 24-25 reunion.

“It’s been 40 years since we’ve all been together,” said Ammenheuser, now the sports editor of USA TODAY. “For several years, Mark and I have casually talked through social media about putting a reunion together. It’s great that it is going to happen.”

Ammenheuser is working with Catoctin Athletic Director Keith Bruck to make the reunion special. Catoctin hosts Williamsport on January 24. Starting at 5:30 p.m., there will be a reception during the junior varsity game. The 1979-80 and 1980-81 teams will then be introduced at halftime of the varsity game.

On January 25, there will be an alumni game for all former Cougars who played in the 1980s.

“We’re also planning a special outing on Friday night after the game,” said Williard, who is eyeing a post-game reunion/celebration at The Ott House Pub in Emmitsburg.

Williard and Ammenheuser have been busy tracking down former teammates and classmates. Social media has helped with that task. However, they are still attempting to locate two former teammates: Jim Hamilla, who played on the 1979-80 team, and Mark Hall, who played on the 1980-81 team. If anyone knows how to reach them, please reach out to Williard (mfwilliard@hotmail.com) or Ammenheuser (DaveAmmenheuser@gmail.com).

Catoctin scores against Walkersville during the 1979-80 season.

With the exception of Hamilla and Hall and Paul Cisar (1979-80), who has a family event scheduled outside of the country, other teammates are expected to attend. They include Carroll Brown, M.J. Golibart, Ed Graff, Bob Gray, Michael Hill, George Kuhn, Duane Snyder, Mike Valentine, Campbell, Gigeous, Grandstaff, Martinez and Williard. Mike Stitely, a member of the 1980-81 team, died in December 1995. He will be represented by his son, Matt Stitely.

Former head coach Steve Lengkeek, who left Catoctin after the 1980-81 season and moved to Wilmington, Delaware, is looking forward to the reunion. Although he’s stayed in touch with some of his former players, he has not seen all of them in four decades.

“My wife, Carol, and I are really looking forward to seeing many athletes, students, and former staff who filled our lives during our time at Catoctin and left us with an abundance of lifelong memories,” said Lengkeek, who has officiated basketball games in the Wilmington area for 25 years. “It makes us very proud to see that so many have gone on to their own journey to excel and to leave so many positive marks on their own stories and that of others.”

He and Keith Delauter (Catoctin Class of 1976) have volunteered to officiate the alumni game on January 25.

Williard and Ammenheuser encourage former classmates, parents, school staff members, and the community to come out to the event.

Blair Garrett

Catoctin Cougars roar past Frederick in the team’s home opener. The Cougars’ 45-15 tossing of Frederick was in part to an electric offense and a suffocating defense that held the Cadets in check for the majority of the game.

It was all Catoctin early on, as the team opened the floodgates against the Frederick team early and often, punishing turnovers and taking an early lead that the team would not relinquish throughout the rest of the game.

Head Coach Doug Williams attributed the team’s victory to a group of unsung heroes who played a key role in Catoctin’s first home game of the season.

“The offensive line did a pretty good job of blocking,” Williams said. “We had some good running and we mixed in a little passing, but our offensive line was really executing.”

The team stormed out to a commanding 31-7 lead by halftime, looking like a well-oiled machine over the first two quarters. The Cougars pulled off their game plan to keep the Cadets’ quarterback Kisaye Barnes contained, limiting Frederick to just one successful offensive drive without resulting in a turnover or a failed fourth-down conversion.

Barnes and Catoctin quarterback Ryan Orr were both unafraid to let the ball fly, but Orr’s passes were finding Cougar receivers, and the Cougars were finding the end zone. Where Catoctin did run into problems was when Barnes found open space to make a run up the field, which is something Williams and the rest of the coaching staff took note of.

“He’s given us problems every single year,” Williams said. “He can throw the ball, but we were most concerned with his running. Once he gets out into the open, he’s a little bit of trouble, so he was the guy we had to slow down and that’s basically what we did.”

The Cougars had no problem containing the passing game, intercepting Barnes multiple times throughout the game, and that swing of momentum proved to be the backbreaker as Catoctin capitalized and extended its lead. 

Key players in the game included RB/CB Carson Sickeri, who punched the ball into the end zone on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, and Ryan Orr, whose consistent decision-making kept Catoctin’s long offensive drives alive.

The Cougars are now 3-0 on the season, but Williams feels there is still plenty more work to be done to get this team firing on all cylinders. “We’ve got a long way to go to improve,” he said. “We’ve got to improve on defense, and we can’t be turning the ball over. We’re not going to win close games doing that.”

Despite some of the ball control issues the Cougars have had, they have out-scored opponents 131-51 this season. There are a few adjustments Catoctin plans to make to keep the momentum and the wins flowing. “I’ve got to do a better job teaching ball security and tightening up our defense and executing the fundamentals,” Williams said.

For the Cougars, the team’s winning is a direct result of the commitment and dedication they put in from training camp until now.

“What I like about our team is our kids are very coachable, and they come to practice ready to work hard every day,” Williams said.

The Cougars are in the midst of a home stand; they were back in action for a home bout against Smithsburg High School on September 27.

The Cougars and Cadets face off at the goal line, primed to punch the ball in for the score.

Catoctin’s Mason Shank picks up huge yardage for his team before slipping out of bounds.

Payne 3Catoctin High School Senior, Payne Harrison, has been tearing up the turf on football fields all over Maryland. After completing his final season with the Catoctin Cougars, he was selected to play in the first annual East West All Star game, along with his team mates Braden Thomson and Noah Dell, hosted by the Baltimore Touchdown Club on December 12, 2015, at Spaulding High School in Severn, Maryland. He then played in the Maryland Crab Bowl at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland on December 19.

According to Catoctin’s Varsity Football Coach, Doug Williams, Payne is only the second CHS football player to be invited to play in the Crab Bowl All-star game. It’s very hard to be invited as only the top players in the state of Maryland are selected.

About Payne, Coach Williams said, “But best of all, he is an outstanding person whom I will miss being around.”

Payne 1Payne is a great student with a 3.69 grade point average, his weighted GPA is 4.19. He loves football and has been playing since age six. He played Catoctin Youth Association (CYA) football, and has played on Catoctin High’s team for four years.

He is an accomplished wrestler for Catoctin as well. He wrestled in the 220 pound heavyweight class as a junior, often wrestling opponents who outweighed him. He qualified to wrestle in the state championship tournament in 2014.

Payne plans to attend a four-year university and study Exercise Science while playing football at the collegiate level.